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Steve Slotin celebrates a folksy 15 years 

Folk Fest visionary

Steve Slotin's a lover of folk art from way back. In 1994, suburban CL paper Gwinnett Loaf ran an article in which he promised a folk-art show in Atlanta — though he had no exhibitors and no location. This gamble paid off. Atlanta's annual Folk Fest now reigns as the largest folk-art show in the world, and celebrates its 15-year anniversary Aug. 15-17 at the North Atlanta Trade Center.

--Lanier Meaders: "In the early 1990s, I was traveling the back roads of the South selling books when I decided to stop in an old soda shop in the small town of Cleveland, Ga. I noticed these face jugs staring back at me from the soda shop counter. At first glance, I thought these were the ugliest things I had ever seen. But the more I looked, the more I grew to love them. ... Lanier Meaders' pottery captured the visual culture I had been searching for. It was this taste of the real American South that drove me toward an insatiable desire to find more of this overlooked Southern culture."

--J.B. Murry: "After spending more time looking for folk art and pottery than selling books, I eventually got fired. The first thing I did after getting the 'good news' was to purchase an entire collection of J.B. Murry's artwork. My [financial adviser] thought I had spent a bundle on 'magic beans.' And I had. But I realized that people really loved these magic beans and were as touched by J.B. Murry's art as I was. I guess that's why they still come to Folk Fest in droves after 15 years."

--The Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists by Chuck and Jan Rosenak: "This book was my ticket into the folk-art world. It is the ultimate bible of self-taught art. It is out-of-print, hard to find, but well worth it. I've pored through every page and have traveled to find many of the living artists represented in the book."

--Black Folk Art In America: 1930 to 1980: "This 1980s book catalogued the first major showing of black folk art in America at the prestigious Corcoran Gallery in D.C. It was ground-breaking to acknowledge and celebrate the creativity of artists who were unschooled and untrained, to admire the beauty in art made from found materials. This show opened up the entire genre of self-taught art."

-- The Devil and Daniel Johnston: “This award-winning documentary about the life of outsider artist and manic cult singer Daniel Johnston is truly eye-opening. Outsider artists, by their very definition, live outside the fringe of functioning society. In Johnston’s case, it is his mental illness. But this documentary really helps us to see the genius beyond his awkwardness and to appreciate his artistry. Johnston will be performing several short concerts at Folk Fest on Aug. 16.”

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